Covid-19: 2 deaths and 98 new cases reported in Northern Ireland

North’s chief medical officer issues reassurance over AstraZeneca vaccine

Almost 1 million  vaccine doses have been administered in the North, of which about half were AstraZeneca vaccines. Photograph: iStock

Almost 1 million vaccine doses have been administered in the North, of which about half were AstraZeneca vaccines. Photograph: iStock

 

There were two further deaths linked to Covid-19 in Northern Ireland on Thursday, bringing the total to 2,123, and 98 new cases identified, bringing the total number of positive cases since the pandemic began to 117,919.

As of Thursday, almost 1 million (973,182) vaccine doses have been administered in the North, of which about half were AstraZeneca vaccines. Just less than 800,000 were first doses, with almost 174,000 people having received both doses of the vaccine.

The North’s chief medical officer has reassured the public about the AstraZeneca vaccine, insisting no definite link has been established between the vaccine and rare cases of blood clotting.

Dr Michael McBride issued a statement on Thursday saying the inoculation against Covid-19 was playing a “vital role” in saving lives and helping the region move out of lockdown.

“The expert, independent advice is clear – the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh any potential risk for the vast majority of adults,” he said.

“The potential risk from this rare blood clotting condition is extremely low and a definite link to vaccination has not yet been established.”

His remarks follow a ruling by the European Medicines Agency on Wednesday that unusual blood clots are a rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, the regulator stated that the health benefits of the protection it provides from Covid-19 outweigh the risks.

Dr McBride said the risk/benefit calculation is different for those aged under 30, because of the reduced threat of Covid to that age group and the availability of other vaccines.

Alternative vaccine

Those aged between 18 and 29 in the North, who do not have an underlying condition, are to be offered an alternative vaccine when it becomes available, the Department of Health has said.

“For the rest of us, it is essential to understand that Covid-19 represents a much greater risk,” said Dr McBride.

“It is also the case that Covid infection itself brings an increased risk of blood clots.”

Dr McBride said it is “thanks in no small measure to the AstraZeneca vaccine that Northern Ireland is in a much better position than it was at the start of the year.”

“It will continue to have a vital role in saving lives, reducing hospitalisations and helping us move out of lockdown,” he added.

It was further announced on Thursday that the vaccination programme was being extended to 40 to 44 year olds.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann said “vaccination is by far our best defence against Covid-19 and is essential to our goal of getting Northern Ireland out of lockdown on a sustainable basis.”